When I was a teenager, I wanted nothing more than to be a professional dancer. Amazingly, my parents supported me in this crazy endeavour. When I finished high school, I commenced a Bachelor of Arts in Dance.
It was amazing. A dream come true.
But six months in, I deferred the course. I don’t really remember why. A combination of factors. But after a few years, I regretted my decision. I thought that it was too late, and that door was now closed for me.
Re-opening the door to dance
A few years later I decided to return to dance at a local suburban dance school. That decision was to shape the rest of my life, and to ultimately make a real difference to the lives of many women.
I know in my heart I would never have been a professional dancer. I didn’t have the physique, talent, emotional fortitude, or tenacity.
But it turns out I could still make a living from dance, and draw on all the other elements of my personality and experience to help me run my business.
After leaving the full time dance course, I was a word processing and data entry operator. Then I went back to study and completed a Bachelor of Science and then Honours Psychology.
I kept dancing, trained as a dance teacher, and completed a Graduate Diploma in Creative Industries (Dance Teaching), and started working in community cultural development for Country Arts SA and Regional Australia. I even did a Certificate IV in Commercial Music (Performance).
Finding my niche
All of these different roles and interests created the ‘perfect storm’, so to speak, for the birth and evolution of Move Through Life Dance Studio.
That is my business, where I offer dance classes to adults of all ages, shapes and sizes, different levels, and dance styles.
My vision is a world where any adult who wants to can identify as a dancer, because they dance. My mission is to create opportunities for adult dancers to pursue and fulfil their dance dreams and aspirations.
When I look back, I realise that the few years where I thought the door to dance was closed for me gave me everything I needed to discover the niche. Of course, it took me many years to see it as a business, and to start to treat it that way.
If I had been born with the physique and talent, I would have joined the ranks of hundreds of unemployed and disillusioned dancers. Instead, I now hold open a door for all those other adults (mostly women) who either never danced or stopped dancing, and want to return.
If I were to say there was one thing I always wanted to do, it was to make a difference. And my clients reassure me every day that that is exactly what I’m doing.
They tell me that having dance in their lives, on their own terms, makes them happier, more centred, less anxious, less stressed, and gives them at least one hour a week when it’s all about them. Plus it gives them great joy, and makes them feel pretty special.
From passion to business
When I started, it was simply a passion project. Over time, it became clear I couldn’t give it up, and it was interfering with my ability to work full time, because it had started to take up so much of my time. Gradually, I began to pay myself, and now, I am the sole income earner in my house and my business supports my small family.
If I had set out to create a money making enterprise at the start, I would be so much further along the path to wealth than I am, and towards achieving my biggest dreams. That’s not how the path went, but here are some of the things I would do differently if I could be back at the beginning:
- Setup as a sole trader from the outset
I established a not-for-profit. The problem with an NFP is that you put in hours and hours of work that you will never be paid for. While that is still true for a sole trader, at least in the future you can enjoy the profits and hopefully be repaid for your passion, commitments, skills, and hard work.
- Believe in myself and my knowledge
For many years, I employed other teachers, as I had lost confidence in myself as a teacher. It wasn’t until I had the great fortune to be mentored by Carly Thompson-Barry that I started to realise the extent of the knowledge I had to share, thanks to her encouragement.
- Start by using the Profit First accounting system.
I’ve been using this for two years and it has enabled me to fulfil two dreams that felt so hard to reach – buy a dog and buy a house. I also paid of several debts to the tune of about $20,000 that I had accumulated thanks to my ‘not for profit’ mentality.
- Seek business advise and mentoring earlier
I struggled for a long time, working for a pittance, without any real idea of how to operate a business instead of an arts project.
- Start out with some capital
Even if it was small, some capital would have meant I could pay for expertise in areas like marketing and website development, rather than having to learn it all myself.
Hindsight and 2020 vision
Of course, with hindsight we have 2020 vision. I have learnt an enormous amount along the way, and I’ve enjoyed the journey.
Perhaps if I’d done things differently it wouldn’t have worked out at all. Just like the way I have ended up with dance teaching as my profession.
Taking the ‘road less travelled’ seems to have worked out quite well, but only because there was a point where I did all of the things I’ve noted above.
Since then, my business and my income have grown. It’s not an empire yet, but I’ll get there.
Move Through Life Studio
I’m one of those people who believes in possibilities. Like the possibility that I could make my living out of dancing. Something I aspired to in my teens, rejected in my 20s, and have achieved in my 40s.
My business is Move Through Life Dance Studio, based in Adelaide, South Australia. Move Through Life is a proudly body and age diverse studio. We believe that anyone can and should have the opportunity to dance, and that dance should be an experience of joy and connection. Our services include dance classes in ballet, contemporary, jazz, and tap, at a range of levels and for different aged adults, so that there for any adult dancer. We also have two performance companies – one ‘all ages’ the other dedicated to ‘over 50s’.
My dance qualifications include a Graduate Diploma in Dance Teaching, as well as 44 years of dance experience and 20 years of teaching. I’ve also had other careers, and completed a Bachelor of Science and Honours Psychology. Yes, I like to break out of the mold! Also, I’m a mother, with a 14 year old daughter, who has opted for soccer and karate instead of dance, but hey, she’s still ‘moving through life’.